Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Pacemaker Turns 50

On the creation of the first cardiac pacemaker:
If the power went out, back in the 1940s and 1950s, the loss of electricity could be profound. And that's just what happened one day, back in 1957. A huge power outage hit Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a giant electrical pacemaker quit working. It had been keeping a young child alive. That little boy died.

In exasperation, the child's doctor said to Bakken, can't you come up with something that doesn't require electricity to help keep these kids alive?

Bakken got to work. He found a diagram of a metronome, something that keeps the beat in music, and he turned it into the world's first, battery-powered pacemaker. He tried it on a dog and it worked. Within days, doctors put that same device on another child. Bakken just happened to run into that little boy at the hospital. He says that moment changed his life.
Too bad medical innovation can't occur that quickly any longer.


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